Theranos, the hot Silicon Valley blood testing company that’s under scrutiny after a Wall Street Journal investigation suggested that the company's technology doesn't work as it should, has a lot of explaining to do. For over a year, multiple news outlets — including The New Yorker, The Washington Post, The Economist, and Fortune — have reported that Theranos earns a portion its income from large pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline, who reportedly use Theranos' tech to conduct clinical trials. But according to representatives from both companies who spoke to the Financial Times that information is factually incorrect.
"I cannot find any evidence that we've done business with them in recent years," a spokesperson for GSK told the Financial Times. When The Verge asked GSK about this, Mary Anne Rhyne, a spokeswoman for GSK told us that "GSK has not done any business with Theranos in the past two years." When we asked if the company had worked with Theranos before then, she told us that she didn't "have more information to share." A Theranos spokesperson told us that Theranos had engaged in clinical trial testing for GSK starting in 2008, however, but that was before Theranos opened its retail business.
Pfizer, on the other hand, told the Financial Times that the company's dealings with Theranos were limited. "We've done only very limited historical exploratory work with Theranos through a few pilot projects," the Pfizer representative said, "and we do not have any current or active projects with them."
A dermatologist has been running Theranos' lab
The denials from GSK and Pfizer add to an already bad two weeks for Theranos. The Wall Street Journal's investigation — an investigation that questioned the accuracy of Theranos' blood testing technology — has cast a large shadow over the company. According to Theranos, the company has developed technology that can be used to run a full range of blood tests using far less blood than conventional methods. But the company has published almost no data demonstrating the validity of its tests. In addition, an investigation by The Verge shows that the company has exploited a number of regulatory loopholes to ensure that regulators don't compare its technology to machines developed by other companies. Most recently, the drugstore chain Walgreens announced that it would stop expanding its "wellness centers" program, which are powered by Theranos.
The Financial Times also reveals that the full-time director of Theranos's laboratory resigned at the end of last year. Since then, a dermatologist named Sunil Dhawan has replaced the director, but on a part-time basis. Dhawan is not certified by the American Board of Pathology, the FT reveals; such a certification isn't a requirement for the position, but it is unusual to run a large lab without one.
Theranos may have allowed this misinformation to spread
It's unclear why so many news outlets reported a partnership between Theranos and GSK when the pharmaceutical company says that it hasn't worked with Theranos in at least two years (GSK has yet to tell us if they worked with Theranos before that). It's also unclear what "limited historical exploratory work" means for Pfizer. (The Verge called Pfizer for comment; we have yet to hear back.) But if these two large pharmaceutical companies are correct, then it means that Theranos has allowed incorrect information to spread for more than a year — most notably in a prominent New Yorker profile of Elizabeth Holmes, the company's founder.
Update October 27th, 4:16PM ET: This story was updated to reflect a statement from Theranos and a statement from GSK.